22 December 2013

Some reflections on Duckstock 2013

Unless you were living under a rock, this week the national media was alive with A&E and Duck Dynasty. Briefly, GQ interviewed Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Robertson family, and asked him about his thoughts on same sex marriage and homosexuality.  Robertson responded. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation responded and A&E in turn put Robertson on "indefinite suspension" from the show. The Internet has been a firestorm ever since.  You can go and read about it in great detail if you somehow haven't heard.

I have thought a lot about this over the last few days.  Here are some of my thoughts. Take them for what they're worth.

First, many of us rushed in.  When our heroes or causes are threatened, we respond with lightning efficiency.  We choose sides and argue vehemently for "our" position. I certainly did this in the days afterward.  I am grateful to live in a society where we can have these discussions, even when we say regrettable things.  There are too many societies where people are imprisoned or killed for their words. By design, ours isn't one of them.

Yet, I think we would be wise to mind our tongues. Matthew Lee Anderson wrote, "The most important spiritual discipline of the 21st century may be that of not weighing in on public controversies."  In our always-connected culture, this is a tough one for many of us. There was much wisdom in Ann Voskamp's blog post, Dear Kids: What You Need to Know About Duck Dynasty, Justine Sacco, and Christmas.  Voskamp seems to routinely offer wise, humble counsel.  When I think about the personification of wisdom in the book of Proverbs, it is easy for me to picture her face. All of us would benefit from learning to mind our tongues. I pray that in the next two score and one year, I learn this lesson better.  I pray that we all do.

Second, to my knowledge, Phil Robertson did not interrupt the interviewer to say, "by the way, I want to make sure I tell you my position on homosexuality."  He was asked, and he answered.  From what I have observed, this seems to be the way of things in modern society. Opposition to same sex marriage by evangelicals is well established and yet the liberal media continues to ask.  To what end?  I have no doubt that the interviewer from GQ knew Robertson's position on same sex marriage and he asked anyway, placing him firmly on the horns of a dilemma. If Robertson said he supported same sex marriage most people would have 1) suspected he was lying, and 2) called him out on it. If he said he was opposed to same sex marriage, well we know what happened.

Unfortunately, the way issues are cast in the media supports the belief that evangelicals are only about homosexuality, guns, and conservative politics. When the only thing people hear evangelicals talking about in the media is limited range of issues, it is not surprising that their impressions are skewed. Yet, I know of no case in the media where during an interview, it was the evangelical who made sure that the issue turned to homosexuality; rather, it is the media who brings the issue up. Christians are merely saying what a straightforward reading of the Bible, which they hold to be the ultimate authority, indicates. Therefore, it appears to be the media, and not evangelicals, who are obsessed with same sex marriage and homosexuality.

Third, when the flood of responses in support of Duck Dynasty came out a common refrain was to bring up the issue of free speech.  I was one of the people who responded that way. These responses were subsequently countered with statements such as "well, these supporters clearly don't understand what free speech actually is" and then went on to elucidate how free speech is a constitutionally guaranteed right yet was irrelevant in this situation.  I agree.  On further reflection, I think what many people were responding to was the selective silencing of one segment of the population by the media. In particular, the politically correct culture we live in does not tolerate those who share dissenting viewpoints. Currently, those of us committed to religious freedom understand that it is religious people, and particularly evangelical Christians, who are currently being silenced. We are told we cannot pray in schools. We cannot display religious symbols in public places. We cannot wear crosses or crucifixes. We are told we cannot sing Christian songs at Christmas time. We can't even say Merry Christmas. It seems that many people are tiring of the thought police who shout "bigot" and "hate crime" every time someone disagrees with them. I believe this is what they mean when referring to freedom of speech. It is certainly what I meant.

It is unfair to corner people, demand their positions, and then when they share those positions to tell them to shut up and go away.  It isn't simply an issue of disagreement, it is an issue of silencing those who don't hold to the positions most cherished by the PC police.

Most importantly, I believe that most evangelical Christians are less interested in whether you are a homosexual than they are in whether you know Jesus.  Yes, most of us believe homosexuality is a sin.  We also believe that slander is a sin, lying is a sin, gluttony is a sin, pride is a sin, lust is a sin...I could go on, but you get the point. The truth is that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and we have only one hope, Jesus Christ. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ coming into the world to address the sin problem once and forever. His grace is available to each and every one of us, whether we are homosexuals, gluttons, adulterers, and slanderers. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So, the next time you want to get to know what a Christian really finds important, ask him about Jesus, not about his views on homosexuality.

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